Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Down in the RV dumps

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
In our relationship, my husband is the RV technician and I am the cook. If I were the RV technician nothing would work, and if he were the cook we would starve. In our respective specialties we get to make certain decisions that affect our daily lives. This has always worked out fine.

Since recently moving into a small motorhome things have changed in both departments. I cook simpler meals, and he hauls fewer tools. Everything seemed to flow smoothly in our new lifestyle until I was advised we could no longer deposit any solids into our new RV holding tank. My husband told me it would mound up in the tank and clog the outlet. We are now inconvenienced with running to the campground public restrooms. I find some of them rather disgusting.

I don’t want him telling me how to cook, but I question his decision on the toilet. Why would millions of RVs have toilets and holding tanks designed into them if they were not usable?

How should I approach this question without stepping on his turf?
--Down in the dumps in Dawson

Dear Dawson:
As odd as it sounds each time I hear it, this practice is not uncommon. Many people seem to have a hangup with using the toilet in their RV the same way they would anywhere else. In some cases perhaps they watched Robin Williams dump his “RV” in the movie with the same name and developed a phobia.

Some I have asked feel RV toilets are not engineered well enough to flush out solids and therefore create constant blockages. Others simply find it disgusting to have to deal with the doo.

You will have to figure out which category your husband falls into before you can solve your problem permanently. If it is a simple phobia issue, you can help solve that by volunteering to take on this simple and sanitary chore yourself. If it’s an engineering question you will only have to give him a few lines of instruction to solve all doubt.

Your husband is right. If not managed properly, solids can mound in the tank and clog outlets. There are certain precautions that must be taken from dump to dump. You must start with a few bowls of water in the tank. Do not flush solids into a dry tank. Adding some septic safe chemicals can help break down solids, suppress odors and lubricate slide valves.

Another important point is tissue type. You want it to dissolve quickly. Buy tissue designed for RV holding tanks or test the brand you choose by sloshing it around in a jar of water. It should quickly disintegrate into small specks of thin tissue. Whatever it does in that jar of water is exactly what it will do in your holding tank.

The tank emptying procedure is also very important. Having a tank near full when you empty is ideal. If it is not and you have access to water, fill it. It’s simple physics, or math if you prefer. An abundance of No. 1 (liquid) will help eliminate No. 2 (solids). Pressure and gravity equal a forceful flush.

One common mistake people make is leaving the blackwater valve open when hooked to a campground sewer. This immediately empties the tank of liquids and leaves the solids to accumulate and harden in the tank. Precautionary maintenance in the form of knowledgable fill and emptying procedure should give you trouble-free use of the RV toilet facilities. Having the right equipment (rubber gloves, hoses, connectors, hand sanitizer and assorted fittings) should make dumping the holding tanks quick, sanitary, and efficient.

It should not be a gender specific job. Like everything else when dealing with RV living, everyone should be prepared to handle all duties. Perhaps your husband should attempt a quiche, while you practice sanitary engineering. The old dirty-swirly is not as difficult as it’s cracked up to be.

If your problem is actually a foul odor in a small confined space, consider Frasier Fir spray by a company named Thymes. A short burst and it smells like you are sitting in the woods.
--Keep Smilin’. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Editor: Here are some items mentioned in the post which are available at Amazon:
Septic-safe toilet paper
Citrus-smell air freshener
Holding tank deodorant
Sewer hose rinser
Liquefy solids in holding tanks
Disposable dump gloves
Thymes Frasier fir spray


Unknown said...

We do deposit our "solids" in the RV tank, but we never put any toilet paper of any kind in there. We have a step can beside the toilet with a bag in it where the used toilet paper goes. Using this method we can buy any kid of toilet paper we want and have never had a clog.

George said...

I AGREE WITH EVERY WORD YOU SAID. Good advice. Putting solids in your black water tank should not be a problem. My wife and I have been RVing for many years and I've yet to have a blockage. As you say have the tank near full when you dump. I always dump the gray water tank next and it will somewhat clean your hose when you do that. Happy RVing and dumping LOL

Laura C. said...

Your husband is being a little weird about this. Just make sure you have plenty of water in the tank first and drive around a bit before you dump. We've never had a clog in 20 years of rv travels. If you want to test your toilet paper. Just put a square or two into a glass of water and shake it a little, if it doesn't immediately break up, don't use it in the toilet. We don't put paper in the toilet at all, but did for many years and had no problem because we tested it first for dissolvability. Tell him if you have to take over the dumping, he will have to do all the laundry...that will change his mind.

Penny said...

I've seen that many people don't even have water in their toilet before
they do their duty. We always fill our toilet at least 1/2 full AFTER we've
flushed, just like a home toilet. That water then carries all the dirty
stuff away very nicely.

We don't worry about toilet paper either. We don't use the real soft,
squishy "don't squeeze" toilet paper and we never use a 1-ply paper 'cause
you usually end up using more than normal. Angel Soft has worked for us in
the 7 years we've been full-timing.

A technician told me that your tanks never completely empty because the
outlet is usually at least 1" (or more in some cases) above the bottom of
the tank. We do, however, leave about 5 gallons of water in the black tank
after we've flushed and rinsed it.

Anonymous said...

Astrid writes that while they do the "doo" in the RV, they put the toilet paper in a trash can. I've heard of people doing this before and while it's a common practice in third world countries because of poor sanitation infrastructure, I can't imagine anything worse than a container full of sh*tty toilet paper sitting in my RV.

MrTommy said...

I cannot fathom NOT putting toilet paper IN the toilet!

Unknown said...

I think I have found the solution to dumping when I want to and not when my tank is nearly full. I have a small class C and I installed a Camco Torpedo tank rinser. When we leave a campground, no matter how full my tank is, I dump my black water and then rinse it with the Torpedo if water is available for at least 2 minutes or so. Then I dump my gray water. There is an utube video that will convince you that the torpedo works. The best thing is I can leave all my doo-doo when I leave a campground no matter how much there was.

Anonymous said...

WE've never had a problem dumping also, except out first trip, being newcomers to the camping rv style. I thought it was best to leave the black tank open so everything can flow out; but, then I started reading and watching the YouTube videos. Very informative stuff out there. Now, I always make sure there is lots of water in the tank before I flush; I use the drop-ins and Scott toilet tissue; I did the test, and Scott works for us. I also have a flush system with another water hose that we use just for flushing; after I drain the tank, I turn on the flush and water starts filling up the tank. When I see it coming back out, I turn off the flush, and there is always more and more that comes out of this black tank. I flush about 4 or 5 times to make sure its all clean. Then I flush out the gray water tank. Never had problems with things getting clogged; however, the monitors in the travel trailer, at times, say differtnly. I always check my monitor when we get to a park to see if its correct with one light showing. Some people put ice cubes in their tank before leaving so it can knock around inside and loosen up anything that got stuck. I used to do this, but I stopped. I check my monitor lights before leaving and if they're all good, we all good to go. Happy Camping!

Unknown said...

We fall in between. We try to use other facilities when convenient, but use our toilet freely, as needed. When it's #1 we put the paper in a bag-lined trash can; when it's #2 it all goes down. By being highly selective about putting paper down the hole, we've extended our "range" from 4 or 5 days to 10-14 days between dumps. Since we're parked in one place for the summer, that means fewer 10 mile round trips to the nearest dump facility (and fewer $7 dump charges).

MarvThom said...

We're full timers with 2 toilets (bath & a half?) and we use Scott (or other cheap stuff) tissue from the dollar store. We share all duties. We close the gray water tank at 3/4 black tanks full so that when it's full, time to dump. We dump each tank by one running water into the toilet while one watchs (a transparent dump fitting) until water is just murky or even clear. A knock on the wall, and we go to the second tank and repeat. We than rinse out the hose and fitting using the gray water. Never had a stoppage, never have had stinky soiled, unsanitary, and disgusting toilet paper in the rig. Put a few gallons of water back in the blk tanks, drop a dissolving pac of toilet chem, no odor, no fuss. Sometimes throw a pac in the gray water tank. Tanks are not delicate things to be coddled, but tough and usable facilities. Read your instuctions, quit being so silly. Oh yeah, we work camp and sometimes sit as long as 5 months in a place.

Mark said...

We are pretty much full timers for 10 months out of the year and own an older '97 motorhome. We have never had a log clog or toilet tissue problem in 8 years. We use Wal-Mart's ultra strong tp. Here's the secret...l always have water in the tank, usually at least 10 gallons.
Before dumping the black tank, I fill a 5 gallon bucket of water and dump it down the toilet while flushing as quickly as possible. This breaks up any "stacked up" waste and disperses it throughout the tank. I then dump the tank. Sometimes I will flush 2 buckets. After the tank has drained, if no water hose is available to hook up to my tank rinse, I will just dump another bucket which rinses the tank rather well. Never a clog problem...